Feeds

Is LTO-5 the last hurrah for tape?

Imation to make 1.6TB LTO-5, but is it tape's last stand?

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration

Imation will soon be making the industry's first terabyte-plus raw capacity tape, in the LTO-5 format, with delivery in early 2010.

The Linear Tape Open (LTO) consortium has three technology-providing members: HP, IBM and Quantum. It defines tape formats against which the three members build drives and independent licensed manufacturers manufacture tape media and build drives. The current format is LTO-4, with a raw capacity of 800GB.

The LTO development roadmap has LTO-5 as its next format and this is what Imation is now licensed to manufacture. Its raw capacity is twice LTO-4's, 1.6TB, with a 2:1 compressed capacity of 3.2TB. LTO-3, the prior generation and format to LTO-4, had a capacity of 400GB raw and and an 80MB/sec transfer speed. The transfer speed rose to 120MB/sec with LTO-4 and will rise again to 180MB/sec with LTO-5.

The LTO website above quotes such figures in compressed data form and so says LTO-5 capacity and transfer rates are 3.2TB and 360MB/sec respectively.

Imation expects to deliver LTO-5 tape media in early 2010 and will, logically, have been developing the media using pre-production versions of LTO-5 drives. These drives will support WORM (Write Once Read Many) format for archiving of unalterable data on tape, and also encryption to secure the contents against unauthorised access. They will also probably support the reading of LTO-4 format tapes and so provide an upgrade path to LTO-4 users needing more capacity.

So far the three technology providers are not saying anything about LTO-5 drives, and nor are other LTO-licensed drive manufacturers such as Tandberg.

Mainframe tape drive and media users have access to 1TB tapes from IBM, 3592 media with the TS1130 drive, and Sun/StorageTek, with its T10000B media and drive. Mainframe customers are told that LTO tape is unsuitable for them because it is designed for less intensive use-cycles than the IBM and Sun/StorageTek mainframe-specific tape products.

There is a sixth generation of the LTO format on the roadmap, featuring a raw capacity of 3.2TB and 270MB/sec transfer speed. With the development of deduplicated and replicated high-capacity SATA hard drive storage arrays, where today's 2TB drives can hold 20TB of deduplicated backup data or more in virtual tape libraries or as straight filer-interface disk backup stores, the tape media and drive market has been shrinking over the past few years.

Customers prefer the faster backup speed of disk-based backup and also the very much faster restore speed from hard drive arrays. This is much, much faster than finding files by sequentially streaming through a tape drive once it has been mounted. However, where there is an enormous amount of data to be stored - petabytes of the stuff - then bulk tape libraries still have a lower cost than the equivalent deduplicated drive array storage alternative. CERN's Large Hadron Collider project will use tape to store the vast amounts of data it expects to generate.

Previously there were other formats competing with LTO, such as Quantum's SDLT and Sony's Super-AIT. Both are now effectively at the end of their life with no future generations planned. For mid-range and enterprise open system Windows and Unix/Linux servers, LTO tape is the sole remaining mass-use format.

The development of backup to distant data storage suppliers, offering a cloud backup service, is also helping to diminish the size of the tape backup market. The rise of these disk backup and cloud backup alternatives raise doubts as to whether or not further tape media and drive format developments will take place. Manufacturers have to see a profitable market into which they can sell products, in order to make research and development worth their while.

FujiFilm and Imation both manufacture LTO-4 media. So far, no other media manufacturer has said it will produce LTO-5 tape media. It would be surprising, but not impossible, if FujiFilm did not make LTO-5 media.

The format is LTO - Linear Tape Open - but if there is only one media manufacturer then the openness of the media vanishes. ®

Best practices for enterprise data

More from The Register

next story
Sysadmin Day 2014: Quick, there's still time to get the beers in
He walked over the broken glass, killed the thugs... and er... reconnected the cables*
VMware builds product executables on 50 Mac Minis
And goes to the Genius Bar for support
Multipath TCP speeds up the internet so much that security breaks
Black Hat research says proposed protocol will bork network probes, flummox firewalls
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
Microsoft's Euro cloud darkens: US FEDS can dig into foreign servers
They're not emails, they're business records, says court
Microsoft says 'weird things' can happen during Windows Server 2003 migrations
Fix coming for bug that makes Kerberos croak when you run two domain controllers
Cisco says network virtualisation won't pay off everywhere
Another sign of strain in the Borg/VMware relationship?
prev story

Whitepapers

7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
A new approach to endpoint data protection
What is the best way to ensure comprehensive visibility, management, and control of information on both company-owned and employee-owned devices?